By Raphael Brion
If you’re getting confident in your kitchen skills and you’re ready to make the jump from occasional home cook to home chef, it helps to have the tools of the trade. The Wirecutter kitchen team brings decades of collective professional kitchen experience to our evaluations of cooking gear for home kitchens, and these are the pro-level tools we recommend investing in if you’re ready to level up.
Professional cooks prefer fish spatulas to the rectangular spatulas that come in utensil sets. Fish turners have a longer, leaner blade that offers an ideal shape for turning delicate fillets but also works on everything else.
Versatile and all-purpose
Heavier and more expensive
Usually about $10 more than our top pick, this spatula has an identical blade but a slightly heavier handle.
Read the review: The Best Spatulas
A seasoned line cook handles tongs like an extension of their hand. With practice, you can learn to be agile, precise, and confident in your cooking.
A durable classic
Winco’s 9-inch tongs are an industry standard. They’re both affordable and precise, offering a great balance of comfort and dexterity.
One great chef’s knife is all you need, and it’s worth investing in something nice if you’re serious about cooking regularly. Spending over $100 gets you a blade that offers more balance, arrives sharper, and stays sharp longer than cheaper options.
Agile and durable
A classic German knife
Read the review: The Best Chef’s Knife for Most Cooks
With a little practice, a sharp paring knife makes quick work of small tasks like mincing a shallot, peeling apples, or making perfect orange segments. It also replaces the need for single-use utensils like cherry pitters or avocado slicers.
Durable and inexpensive
Read the review: The Best Paring Knife
Even the best knives need to be sharpened every six months to a year (either by you or a professional) to maintain their sharpness. But using a honing rod regularly can keep the edge straight and true, increasing its efficacy.
Keep knives sharp
Read the review: The Best Knife Sharpener
For properly browned meats, ditch the thin skillet that came with your cookware set. Pros use tri-ply pans (aluminum core sandwiched between layers of stainless steel) because they retain and distribute heat better than other kinds of cookware.
Will last a lifetime
A solid performer
Read the review: The Best Skillet
An heirloom-quality enameled Dutch oven is a kitchen workhorse that’s as beautiful as it is useful. Whether you’re making sauce, soup, or stew, or braising meats, it can go from stove to table—just don’t forget to use a trivet.
The gold standard
The Le Creuset is the absolute best Dutch oven, with a great design and a high-quality enamel finish that’s less likely to chip over time.
Reliable and affordable
Read the review: The Best Dutch Oven
A professional kitchen typically has many times the amount of towels of a home kitchen because they’re good for more than drying. Use them for handling hot pans, holding cutting boards in place, plating, and much more.
Cheap towels for dirty jobs
Big, thirsty, long-lasting
A stylish upgrade
Useful for food prep
Read the review: The Best Dutch Oven
Using a commercial-grade blender is the only way to get truly silky sauces and purees that plate beautifully and melt in the mouth. Even midtier models literally can’t cut it. Pro blenders can also handle the thickest mixtures without burning out.
The choice of professionals
More affordable but less durable
Stronger motor, shorter warranty
Read the review: The Best Blender
Using a food processor is like having a sous chef who precisely chops, slices, and shreds everything you want without complaint. Having one will let you tackle more complex recipes.
Solid and easy to use
A mini option
A larger, more powerful option
Read the review: The Best Food Processor
A good stand mixer can make your baking and cooking life a lot easier, and you’ll be able to tackle recipes from so many baking cookbooks that call for one. And it can do much more if you get the pasta-rolling and meat-grinding attachments.
This 5-quart stand mixer tackles nearly any recipe without knocking around on the counter, and it’s one of the quietest models in the KitchenAid line.
For bigger batches
With a bigger mixing bowl and footprint, this mixer is best left on the countertop, but it is excellent at mixing heavy doughs and batters.
You could use any old table spoon for saucing, but a larger, higher-capacity saucing spoon gives you more liquid per scoop and is easier to manipulate.
The most perfect spoon
Read the review: The Elements of Brunch
Pros obsess over expiration dates because their profit margins depend on it, but you should too if you want to save money and reduce waste. Tag leftovers with a name and date with a Sharpie and low-tack tape before you sock them away.
Simple but effective
Read the review: 10 Cheap, Unexpected Kitchen Essentials We Rely On
Quarter sheet pan
Having multiple quarter sheet pans lets you smartly cook multiple things at once in your oven, pulling each one out when they’re done. The New York Times’s Melissa Clark calls it “the one item that will change your weeknight cooking.”
No-frills but useful
Boning knives allow you to trim and carve meat, poultry, and fish like a pro, which can be a rewarding and meaty project. Also, by breaking down the meat yourself, you’ll save money along the way. Don’t let your butcher have all the fun.
Sharp and flexible
The ergonomically shaped handle is comfortable to hold and provides a good grip even when wet.
Box graters make quick work of small tasks like zesting, grating, and shredding. Cheap ones struggle at even the slightest sign of resistance, but the best ones can replace a food processor for many basic tasks—and they’re much easier to clean.
Versatile and sharp
Read the review: The Best Grater
Restaurant chefs love pro-grade sous vide equipment for making large batches of perfectly medium-rare steaks, chicken so tender you don’t even need a knife, and eggs the consistency of custard. We think you will too.
Small and powerful
An introductory sous vide cooker
This model is not the most elegant option, but it is efficient and inexpensive.
Affordable and flexible
Read the review: The Best Sous Vide Machine and Gear
Things to skip
A garlic press, an avocado slicer, a strawberry huller—you can replace all of these with a paring knife and some practice.
Read the original piece on Pro Kitchen Tools to Level Up Your Home Cooking.
Slate has relationships with various online retailers. If you buy something through our links, Slate may earn an affiliate commission. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. All prices were up to date at the time of publication.